For years the Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower likelihood of illness and increased well-being. Now, a new study has linked it to mental and physical health too.
The Mediterranean diet, characterized by the consumption of fruit, vegetables, beans and lentils (legumes), fish, olive oil and nuts, helps guard against heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, asthma, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. And it's been shown to increase life expectancy.
A new study headed by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Navarra took the next step and analyzed the influence of the Mediterranean diet on the quality of life of a sample of more than 11,000 university students over a period of four years.
Dietary intake data was taken at the beginning of the study and self-perceived quality of life was measured after the four year monitoring period. In order to ascertain whether the Mediterranean diet was followed, consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, cereals and fish was positively valued whereas consumption of meat, dairy products and alcohol was negatively valued.
The results reveal that those who stick more to the Mediterranean diet score higher on the quality of life questionnaire in terms of physical and mental well-being. This link is even stronger in terms of physical quality of life.
The Mediterranean diet is a food pyramid combines food to be eaten daily, weekly and occasionally. Main meals should include cereals, fruit and vegetables and dairy products.
The diet includes a daily intake of 1.5 and 2 litres of water. Olive oil constitutes the main source of fat for its nutritional quality and moderate consumption of wine and other fermented beverages is recommended.
Fish, lean meat and eggs are sources of high quality animal protein. Fish and seafood are also sources of healthy fats.
At the top of the pyramid are sugar, sweets, cakes, pastries and sweetened beverages that should be consumed occasionally and in small amounts.
Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
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